II. The Messenger Party
The Anti-White Party Before 1860
Seventh-Day Adventist history, especially J.N. Loughborough's Rise and Progress of the Seventh-Day Adventists (1892), shows pre-1860 Sabbath Adventist history as entirely dominated by Mr. and Mrs. James White, and presents the origin of the Seventh-Day Adventist church by 1863 as the natural outgrowth of the movement. Some opposition to the visions of Mrs. White is admitted, but such opponents are usually cast as ones who went out of the movement, went insane, or fell into weird beliefs. For the Seventh-Day Adventists, "those who went out from them" met with "utter failure."1
Far from all Sabbath Adventists believed with their whole heart that Ellen G. White was a "prophetess." The most prominent group before 1860 opposing the Whites was termed by the Whites as the "Messenger Party."
Messenger Party: Case and Russell
The so called "Messenger Party" concerned Hiram S. Case and C.P. Russell. Case was a pioneer preacher of the Adventist message in 1844 in New York. He accepted the Sabbath and sanctuary ideas from S.W. Rhodes in 1851 in North Plaines, Michigan. Soon Case was out preaching in Michigan, Ohio, New York, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and also writing articles. He was the first to preach the Advent message in Wisconsin, in the spring of 1851. Waterman Phelps was among his first converts in southwest Wisconsin, a state that was to be one of the key areas of opposition to the Whites.2
In June 1853 at Jackson, Michigan there were held a series of Adventist meetings attended by Loughborough and the Whites. It appears that there was some dissension here in the church. Some members had bitter feelings against a certain church lady. H.S. Case and C.P. Russell strongly accused her and tried to make her confess her wrong doing, whatever it was. Mrs. White had a vision, and as a result reproved the lady and also rebuked Case and Russell for their unchristian conduct towards the lady. Case and Russell complained bitterly of the reproof. Previously they had believed in Mrs. White's visions, and now they became staunch opponents of her.3
A few weeks later, Case and Russell got other "disaffected spirits" to join them and began publication in the fall of 1853 of the Messenger of Truth at Jackson, Michigan. This is the origin of the "Messenger Party" according to the Seventh-Day Adventist historian Loughborough. He termed the paper a scandal sheet with "many falsehoods" in it. The Messenger of Truth apparently stirred the entire Sabbath Adventist movement as indicated by the strong rebuttals that were given in the Review and Herald, from January 1854 to June 26, 1855.
The opposition paper's stance has not yet been discovered because apparently all copies have been lost. It may have held other doctrines than those of the White Party.
Whites Opposed by Messenger Party
By early 1855, James White and the Review and Herald were in serious financial trouble, possibly due to the influence of the Messenger Party. White was ill and sought to free himself from the editorship of the paper but there was nobody to take his place. He jumped at the opportunity to move the paper to Battle Creek, Michigan where Adventist brethren agreed to finance the paper. Headquarters of the White Party became established at Battle Creek, where the Whites sought to gain control of the entire Sabbath Adventist movement, and quell all opposition to the "Spiritual Gifts" of Mrs. White.
On June 20, 1855 the Whites, Loughborough, and Elder Cottrell held a meeting in Oswego, New York. During the meeting they were harassed by a man named Lillis who circulated some copies of the Messenger of Truth - termed "slanderous documents" - among the people. If this was more than an isolated incident it appears that the White Party was facing considerable opposition.
To quell opposition to her, Mrs. White conveniently had a vision in which "she was shown that if we would keep at our work, preaching the truth, regardless of any such people as the 'Messenger Party' they would go to war among themselves and their paper would go down, and when that should happen we would find that our ranks had doubled."
Loughborough explains the origin of the Messenger Party and all subsequent opposers to Mrs. White's visions by stating that "those who have been reproved for defects in character, for wrong habits, or for some wrong course in their manner of life" were the ones that came out in opposition to Mrs. White. They felt hurt by the reproofs and protested that they were not as bad as her testimony said, and as a result left the ranks.4
Within two years the paper was said to have died for lack of support. It must have continued though at least until 1858 when Loughborough states that the Messenger ceased to exist and the Messenger Party split and withered away. James White in his Life Incidents states that those who left the White Party "purified" the church of "undesirable elements."5
One of the top leaders of the Messenger Party was said to have stopped preaching and became a teacher. In a fit of anger he pulled a revolver on a disobedient student; it snapped but failed to fire and the teacher had to escape a lynching by fleeing to Canada. James White reports that some of the other leaders went out on their own and at least one became a Spiritualist. To White's knowledge, not one of the eighteen messengers continued as preachers and there was not a single place left where the Messenger Party had a regular meeting. Because they had rejected Mrs. Whites visions, James White said they had rejected the Gifts of the Spirit.6
Wisconsin Center of Opposition
The Messenger Party apparently believed strongly in the use of the name "Church of God." Nowhere is this more evident than in Wisconsin, where the Messenger Party was strong. Denounced by the Whites in their Review as "fanatics," Wisconsin Adventists were strongly against Ellen G. White's visions.
C.W. Stanley of Lodi, Wisconsin upon his resignation from the ministry in December of 1860, said "I have so poorly filled the office of a good minister of Jesus Christ, in my ministration of the third angel's message in the 'Church of God' during the eleven years past, I do this day resign holy office."7 Stanley later was quoted in the Review as saying that he was acquainted with all those that were in the "fanaticism" (term Whites used for their opposition) and that not a single one to his knowledge adhered to Mrs. Whites visions.8
Stephenson and Hall Join Messenger Party
Associated with the Messenger Party were J.M. Stephenson and D.P. Hall, some of the first converts of Adventist preacher J.H. Waggoner in Wisconsin. Stephenson and Hall soon became prominent Adventist preachers in their own right. At a conference in Jackson, Michigan, in April 1855, they appeared to be against the Messenger Party and said they would go back to Wisconsin to overcome the Messenger Party's opposition to the Review. Yet later they came out for the "age-to-come" doctrine, that of believing in a probationary period after Christ's coming.
At conferences in Eldorado and Koskonong, Wisconsin on October 5th and 12th, 1855, they denounced the Review as sectarian and resolved to withdraw support from it. Soon Stephenson and Hall began to write for the Messenger and associated themselves with the people they had said they would oppose. Yet in a few weeks, they gave up the Sabbath and opposed it, attempting to form an "age-to-come" party with themselves as its leaders. Later both Stephenson and Hall were said to have become insane.9
D.P. Hall and Hayfield, Pennsylvania Seventh Day Baptist Church
D.P. Hall figured prominently in the "sheep stealing" discord between Adventists and Seventh Day Baptists, which lasted from about 1850 to 1880. These years saw the aggressive growth of Adventists and inevitable loss on the part of Seventh Day Baptists resulting in much hard feelings.
In the winter of 1855, eight years before the Seventh-Day Adventist General Conference was organized, Elder D.P. Hall arrived at the Seventh Day Baptist church at Hayfield, Pennsylvania, and challenged all comers to a rousing debate. "Though he had no specific authority from the Adventists to do this, he presented what were supposed to be Adventist views. His work resulted in a split of the Hayfield church, with harsh feelings on both sides."10
In 1879, James White alluded to the Hall incident in Pennsylvania in the following vein: "We deeply regretted the havoc made in some of the Seventh Day Baptist churches in Pennsylvania, more than twenty years since, by men who do not now stand with us. For while that work weakened the Seventh Day Baptists, it brought but very little strength to our cause."11
White introduced a resolution relative to this incident, to the 1879 Seventh-Day Adventist General Conference, which passed unanimously:
Whereas, Certain preachers, who professed to be Seventh-Day Adventists, at an early date in our brief history, did seek their field of labor in the localities where there were Seventh Day Baptist churches, and did weaken some of their feeble churches, and blot out others, resulting in harm and only harm, to the great grief of the Seventh Day
Baptists, there . . . Resolved. That . . . we deeply regret the injury done . . . about twenty years since, by those men whom we could not control, and who have since done Seventh-Day Adventists tenfold the injury they did the Seventh Day Baptists, resulting in weakening and grieving both denominations . . . we ask not to be held responsible for that which we have no power to control.12
Messenger of Truth the Predecessor of the Hope of Israel
Since almost the entirety of the available information on the Messenger Party comes from the White Party, it is difficult to arrive at a true picture of their beliefs and actions. The Messenger Party is important in that it was a direct, if not organic, precursor of the Church of God (Seventh Day). The press used to print the Messenger of Truth was the very same one which began the printing of the Hope of Israel, the first paper of the Church of God.
And the Messenger Party was further important in that it brought to the fore the two key issues which created the division of Sabbath Adventists into the Seventh-Day Adventist church and the Church of God: (1) the church name - Church of God versus Seventh-Day Adventist, and (2) the question of the visions of Ellen G. White. W
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